1959 was, no doubt, an interesting year, even for cryptozoology. As a fan of cryptozoology myself I often think I have read all the best stories on these creatures, their findings, and their origins. However, in this line of work, I find myself always discovering new stories. The one I'm discussing today, the Soay Island Sea Monster, is one of those.
Soay Island lies on the west coast of Scotland and is best known for being slightly south of Skye, fishing...and sheep. In September of 1959, however, it got a bit more exciting. Tex Geddes, a shark fisherman, and James Gavin, an engineer, had a very strange expereince.
Tex and James heard heavy breathing before they actually saw the Soay monster. Upon going to the edge of the book, they saw a dark, and very large, object from their boat. When it moved a bit closer, they got a closer view of a scaly, apparently hump-backed, creature with what they described as a tortoise-lad head, a large mouth, and a serrated back.
It is important to note that the accounts of the monster differ slightly between the two men. James had a more moderate approach, claiming the exposed part of the body was somewhere between 6-8 feet, whereas Tex claimed it was closer to 8-10 feet. Tex, humorously, linked it to the head of a donkey in size.
The sighting and accompanied story soon gained traction, and was featured innational news media in outlets such as the Illustrated London News. Tex was the main catalyst for this, and wrote about the encounter to prominent zoologist and writer, Maurice Burton.
But did they truly seem some kind of primitive sea-dragon, a curiously deformed large animal...or just a sea turtle? Well, writer Darren Naish, who looked into the case, believed it to be the Occam's Razor of answers: a sea turtle.
According to Naish, some sea turtles are known for having tall(ish) triangular dorsal structures, beak-like mouths, and long necks. However, he does concede that no sea turtles of the sizes the two men reported have ever been round. So, he admits, there is a chance that it is an unknown species of large marine reptile. The proposed existence of a giant sea-turtle is not impossible.
Either way, the story gripped Scotland in the late 1950s and continues to challenge both marine biologists and cryptozoologists today.
The above image is a picture of the Sea Caves of Soay and are unrelated to the story (besides, well, the fact that it is an image of Soay) taken by John Allan. It is liscensed under creative commons 2.0.